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May 2008 Archives



May 2, 2008 4:15 PM

A Step Back for Jordan's Women

To follow up on last week’s blog on honor killings in Jordan, this week saw a sad reminder that although pioneering journalists like Lina Nabil can break taboos and talk about these issues, the country’s judiciary continues to condone violence and a regressive view of Islamic and tribal culture.

This Wednesday, a Jordanian father received a six-month prison sentence for murdering his daughter by electrocuting her, after she had abandoned an abusive marriage. The prosecution had sought the father’s conviction for manslaughter; he had tied his daughter’s hands together with wire and then connected her to the house current. Instead, he was given a lesser sentence under Article 98 of Jordanian law, by which crimes of passion are punished only with small custodial sentences. In this case, the father had already served six months in prison before his trial and was allowed to walk free.

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May 8, 2008 5:08 PM

Iraq's Tribal Threat

I have often argued in this blog that the adaptation of Islamic beliefs to tribal customs is one of the main problems facing Islam’s efforts to modernize. Whether manifested in so-called “honor” crimes in Jordan, or in Afghanistan’s makeshift legal system in places like the border town of Khost, tribalism asserts itself where government has broken down, providing some form of law and hierarchy at the price of allowing socially regressive practices and corruption. I sometimes like to measure tribal leaders by what I call the “Godfather factor” – just how little they have to say to make themselves understood.

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May 13, 2008 4:06 PM

Egypt's Facebook Revolution

When most people log onto Facebook, the thought of fomenting revolution is pretty far from their minds. But in the Middle East, and most recently in Egypt, Facebook has become an important platform for dissent in countries that routinely clampdown on liberal activists, and where the mosque has traditionally been the only outlet for venting political frustration.

Last month saw the arrest of Esra Abdel Fattah, 27, after she formed a group on Facebook calling for protests against the high price of food and other commodities in Egypt. Strike action was already planned by factory workers in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla al-Kobra, and the Facebook group, which attracted 64,000 members, tapped into a national mood of unrest. During Fattah’s incarceration, police clashed with protestors in Mahalla, killing three; some 500 people were detained.

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May 20, 2008 4:39 PM

Extremists Out, Capitalists In

How can a dusty, partly-abandoned ceramics factory on the edge of Ramadi help stem the tide of al-Qaeda in Iraq?

This is one of the conundrums that the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team faces in this gritty Western Iraqi city. Ramadi was overrun by al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups for much of the past five years, until Iraqi tribal leaders finally succeeded, earlier this year, in routing them out of the city.

In the past few months reconstruction has begun – or at least what passes for reconstruction in Iraq since the invasion. That is, tearing down bomb-damaged buildings (in Ramadi’s case that amounts to a large swathe of downtown), patching up the rest, and clearing away the rubble. So far over $200 million has been spent on the cleanup. I’ve witnessed this process before, right after the war, and again following U.S. offensives in Fallujah. But what happens next? That’s the big question facing Ramadi, and really the rest of the country. Once you’ve cleared out al-Qaeda, how do you bolster civic society and local governance to stop extremists from returning?

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May 22, 2008 5:14 PM

Un-Employing Extremism

How can a dusty, partly-abandoned ceramics factory on the edge of Ramadi help stem the tide of al-Qaeda in Iraq?

This is one of the conundrums that the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team faces in this gritty Western Iraqi city. Ramadi was overrun by al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups for much of the past five years, until Iraqi tribal leaders finally succeeded, earlier this year, in routing them out of the city.

In the past few months reconstruction has begun – or at least what passes for reconstruction in Iraq since the invasion. That is, tearing down bomb-damaged buildings (in Ramadi’s case that amounts to a large swathe of downtown), patching up the rest, and clearing away the rubble. So far over $200 million has been spent on the cleanup. I’ve witnessed this process before, right after the war, and again following U.S. offensives in Fallujah. But what happens next? That’s the big question facing Ramadi, and really the rest of the country. Once you’ve cleared out al-Qaeda, how do you bolster civic society and local governance to stop extremists from returning?

Continue »




May 29, 2008 10:47 AM

Hunger Helps Muslim Brotherhood

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Faraz al-Mazrawi runs a Muslim Brotherhood social services organization in the Jabal al-Nasr district of Amman, Jordan. The long food queue outside the center’s kitchen every morning attests to the poverty of the neighborhood, which is made up primarily of Palestinian refugees.

Jordan, like other developing countries, has been badly hit by the global rise in food prices. The price of meat has risen by 25%; tomatoes, a staple of low-income households here, cost five times what they did a short while ago.

To counter the crisis, the government has cut import tariffs on some foodstuffs, and increased public sector salaries by 20 percent. But that has meant little for the plight of Jabal a-Nasr’s 150,000 residents, among whom unemployment stands at over 20%; life there has become, in some cases, a struggle to get enough food to survive.
Fawaz says he’s seen increased criminality in his neighborhood and families foraging in the trash for food.

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